The Official Pastoral Visit of His Beatitude
 Nicholas,
Archbishop of Athens
and All Greece

to the United States of America

(As reported in the official magazine of the Holy Synod,
HEROLD OF THE TRUE ORTHODOX, May 2004)


As a part of his pastoral responsibilities after assuming the Throne as Archbishop of Athens, His Beatitude Archbishop Nicholas (now reposed) visited the United States of America from April 30th through May 7th, 2004, accompanied by the Chief Secretary of the Holy Synod, Protopresbyter Father Demetrios Tsarkatzoglou, his Secretary, Archimandrite Father Panteleimon Descas, and Reader Vasilios D. Tsarkatzoglou.
    
His Beatitude arrived at Kennedy Airport at 7:30 p.m. via Lufthansa Airlines on Thursday, April 30th, where he was met by the Archepiscopal Deputy, Archpriest Father Anthony B. Gavalas, the Rev. Priest Father Stephen Fraser, and many faithful. His Beatitude and his entourage then traveled to Holy Protection Church in Astoria where there was held the official welcome of His Beatitude with Doxology. Father Anthony welcomed His Beatitude to America, wishing him a good visit.

On the following day, Friday, Father Anthony met with His Beatitude and informed him concerning various matters regarding the Parishes and people in the United States.  His Beatitude also met with Father Stephen Fraser, Rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity in Phoenix, Arizona.  Father Demetrios Tsarkatzoglou also participated in these discussions, offering much positive input.  After Vespers that evening, His Beatitude traveled to Norwalk, Connecticut, where he met with Parishioners there, visited the sick and spoke with the brethren concerning various ecclesiastical and family matters.

Three presbyters, Fathers John Bruk, Neil Galarneau and Elias Fagan, together with their families, arrived in New York on Saturday morning.  His Beatitude spoke with them as a caring father and as a responsible Hierarch of the Church of Christ, concerning their remaining strong in their Orthodox Confession of Faith and consistent guardians of our Holy Orthodox Tradition.  He also discussed various other matters concerning Parish life, giving them appropriate guidance and exhortations.

The next day, Sunday of the Blind Man, the Festal Hierarchical Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the Church which was full of people. Following Nocturns and the Matins, at the chanting of the Katavasiae, the Archbishop was officially greeted at the portals of the Church by all the clergy, with Father Anthony bearing the Holy Gospel.  Also participating in the greeting was a young girl dressed in the traditional costume of her native island of Kerkyra. She offered His Beatitude a bouquet of flowers. Another young lady of Ukrainian descent, dressed in her traditional costume, offered the Archbishop the traditional Slavic greeting, to important guests, of bread and salt on a beautifully decorated tray.  His Beatitude accepted these gifts with obvious joy and blessed these two representatives of the Parish youth.

Following his veneration of the Holy Gospel, the Archbishop entered the Church, blessed the people, and from the Bishop’s Throne began the chanting of the Katavasiae.  At the chanting of the “Let every breath,” he read the Entance Paryers and was dressed majestically in his episcopal vestments on the soleas before the congregation, being helped by the clergy as the choir chanted the hymn “The Prophets Above.”  The faithful, for many of whom this was the first time they had attended a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, observed the ceremonies with profound joy.  Just before the Doxastikon of the Praises, His Beatitude tonsured three Readers to serve the Parishes.

The most important and essential event of the day took place at the end of the Doxology: the presentation of the priests and the Confession of Faith of the four Presbyters who had come to receive the laying-on of hands (Cheirothesia, trans. note) to be received as canonical members of the clergy of our Church.  Each presbyter separately declared before God and men that he accepts all Orthodox teachings and all of the Orthodox Sacred Tradition, and that without any reservation he once and for all time cast off and condemned whatsoever has been condemned by the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ.

Cutting off all ecclesiastical communion with his former ecclesiastical superiors and with every other schismatic group, he promised lifelong submission and obedience to the Holy Synod of our True Orthodox Church of Greece, to its President, His Beatitude Archbishop Nicholas, and to his canonical successors.


The Hierarchical Divine Liturgy began thereafter, and continued in an atmosphere of great quiet and piety of the people who were very affected by the majesty of the sacred service, led by the Archbishop surrounded by his clergy and the altar servers.  After the Great Entrance, and the placing of the Holy Gifts on the Holy Table, the prayer of cheirothesia was read by the Archbishop over the four presbyters as they knelt before the Holy Table, who thereafter participated in the Divine Liturgy.

Just before the end of the Divine Liturgy, the cheirothesia of the office of Spiritual Father was read over Fathers Stephen Fraser and John Bruk, and at the end of the Divine Liturgy and before the distribution of the antidoron, there took place the official greetings.  First, the Very Rev. Archpriest Fr. Anthony B. Gavalas welcomed His Beatitude to New York and to the Parish.  Then, Fr. Stephen Fraser greeted His Beatitude on behalf of his Parish in Arizona, and Fr. John Bruk on behalf of the clergy from Boston.  Fr. Anthony then read a letter of greeting from Father Neophytos Tsakiroglou on behalf of the parishes in Canada, expressing the common hope and promise of cooperation with the faithful there in connection with our Mission in Canada.

Following these greetings, the Archbishop spoke.  His inspired sermon was full of teaching and exhortation, and filled the hearts of the faithful of America with a strong understanding and certainty that in the person of the Archbishop they have a caring father who represents and transmits to them the concern of the Holy Synod of Greece as well as that of all the fathers and brothers there, and that they must never feel isolated.  This unity is based upon the mighty foundation of our common and true Orthodox Confession.  Then, the Archbishop gave to the Rector of the Parish an enameled Blessing Cross with which to bless the faithful.  And to each of the Presbyters, he gave a hand-painted icon of his Patron Saint.  On behalf of the Parish of the Holy Protection, Father Anthony gave the Archbishop a miniature icon of the Theotokos painted on mother-of-pearl; and at the distribution of the antidoron, His Beatitude gave to each of the parishioners a small prayer-rope or a cross.

After the Divine Liturgy, the Parish had prepared a festal common meal in the yard of the Church in honor of the Archbishop and his entourage, and all the clergy and the people participated in the meal which in some way was an extension of the Divine Liturgy’s atmosphere of brotherly love and common spirit of the faithful with their Spiritual Father.  Despite his exhaustion, the Archbishop did not disappoint anyone who approached him for a photograph or for an audience concerning any personal or family matter.

That same day, His Beatitude gave his archiepiscopal blessing to the Novice Monk Brother Ninian and to the newly founded Hermitage of the Procession of the Holy Cross.  This hermitage, with the help of God, will evolve into the first Monastery in America for the salvation of souls.

On Tuesday night after the Vespers of the Apodosis of Pascha, the Archbishop was invited to the home of one of the Parish’s Councilmen where various matters of ecclesiastical and family interest were discussed.  On Wednesday, the Apodosis of Pascha, there was concelebrated the Divine Liturgy for the Feast with Fathers Anthony, Demetrios and Panteleimon serving.

After Vespers of the Ascension, His Beatitude received the members of the Holy Protection Parish Council with whom he discussed matters having to do with their Parish as well as matters of a more general nature concerning  missionary aspects and efforts in America.   

On the Feast of the Ascension the next day, the Archbishop presided at the Divine Liturgy which was concelebrated by the same presbyters, and after the Divine Liturgy, in his farewell address, His Beatitude thanked everyone who had helped in the successful completion of his pastoral visit, and addressed paternal exhortations to the faithful asking them to give heed to these exhortations as they were his offering to his spiritual children.

That afternoon, the Archbishop and his entourage, escorted by Father Anthony and members of the Parish Council, departed from Kennedy Airport for Greece.  They all wished His Beatitude strength, discretion and courage from Above as he struggles to fulfill his manifold duties, oftentimes in the midst of stormy circumstances.

The Archbishop’s visit was positively commented on by the local press in the days following.

x